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Pawn Shop Chronicles(2013)
A missing wedding ring leads to a wild-goose chase involving meth addicts, skinheads and an Elvis impersonator.
For more about Pawn Shop Chronicles and the Pawn Shop Chronicles Blu-ray release, see Pawn Shop Chronicles Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on September 6, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Brendan Fraser, Paul Walker, Elijah Wood, Vincent D'Onofrio, Chi McBride, Matt Dillon
Director: Wayne Kramer
» See full cast & crew
Pawn Shop Chronicles Blu-ray Review
Chronicling everything from the mundane to the truly bizarre.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, September 6, 2013
Oh, the stories people's things could tell. They say "if walls could talk..." but what about pawn shop trinkets? Imagine the stories behind grandpa's shotgun, that fancy custom ring, the old beater car in the lot, or the baseball bat stuffed in a barrel with the other sporting goods? To whom did they belong, what deeds did they perform, how were they acquired, why were they sold? The history those items could share -- and the future history those items could make -- is the premise behind Pawn Shop Chronicles, a Pulp Fiction wannabe with smaller ambitions and less in the way of memorable characters and quotable banter. Director Wayne Kramer's (Crossing Over) film takes audiences on a peculiar journey into the heart of the deep South, telling the tale of racist drug users, a man with a strange pornographic addiction and a dark secret, a newly married man searching for his former spouse, and a struggling Elvis impersonator. Yup, it's eclectic movie time, and nope, it's no classic. Nevertheless, there are a few good things to discover within the film and enough to warrant a watch.
Pawn shop operator Alton (Vincent D'Onofrio) and his very relaxed best friend Johnson (Chi McBride) spend their days idly chatting it up in the out of the way emporium of all things bought, sold, and bartered for any which reason one might possibly imagine. They're used to seeing their share of unforgettable characters walk through the doors with the oddest of items ready to trade for a little cash, but nothing could quite compare to the stories behind three of the shop's most unique visitors. First is Vernon (Lukas Haas), an absentminded nobody who pawns off his shotgun in order to pay for the gas he needs to rendezvous with Raw Dog (Paul Walker) to discuss a robbery for which he'll need that gun. Oops. The meeting doesn't go so well, leaving Vernon bloodied and seeking revenge but without the right tool for the job. Alton next meets Richard (Matt Dillon), a newlywed who stops in to get a few dollars to fund his honeymoon. He's distracted when he sees his ex-wife's custom wedding ring in the case, leading him on a local hunt for her and yielding a startling discovery. Finally, a down-on-his-luck Elvis impersonator (Brendan Fraser) who can't get a barber to trim his sideburns properly pawns a cherished piece of costume jewelry in order to get to his show.
The problem with Pawn Shop Chronicles is that its story is a bit too random and with too little cohesion. There's not a serious link between the tales, and each works better as its own short rather than a member of a more cohesive unit. They also grow more bizarre as the story unfolds, beginning with a simple tale of a drug deal gone wrong but from there exploding into the outré and the outlandish. It's never quite clear what the film is trying to do beyond tell a few truly odd tales of small town secret lives with the common denominator otherwise uneventful trips to the pawn shop. What might have been a more complete, fascinating tale of interconnectedness is instead just a trio of mostly unrelated tales strung together by a convenience and a title. They're all interesting in their own ways, even the more conventional of the three. The middle segment is the most violent and certainly the most unapproachable, while the final "Elvis" segment proves the most eccentric and weirdly entertaining.
Even if the stories aren't exactly the pinnacle of fiction or even make all that much sense, the film does enjoy a few highlights, largely in the form of its cast. Pawn Shop Chronicles features a standout collection of actors, some of whom appear in parts quite dissimilar from others they've played and far away, it would seem, from their comfort zones. Elijah Wood, for example, portrays the film's most vile and mysterious character, while Paul Walker abandons his The Fast and the Furious pretty boy façade in favor of a deep South racist covered in tattoos. Matt Dillon and DJ Qualls largely stay within their confines, however, playing, for the most part, the same sorts they portray in other films. The film is at its best when it's focused on a surprisingly excellent effort from Brendan Fraser as a down-on-his-luck Elvis performer who lacks both the finances and the skills to put on a good show. Fraser is funny and oddly relatable in the part, and he also sells the Elvis wannabe exterior very well. Vincent D'Onofrio is fantastic, as he always is, playing the pawn shop proprietor, and outside of Fraser's sequence, Pawn Shop Chronicles finds its finest moments in the small talk between D'Onofrio and his pawn shop pal, Chi McBride.
Pawn Shop Chronicles Blu-ray, Video Quality
Pawn Shop Chronicles comes to Blu-ray with a well-defined 1.78:1 high definition presentation. Though it's typical of B-level HD video -- there's a flatness and glossiness to the image that's no longer seen on the best of the best huge budget productions -- it holds up rather well overall, revealing quality textures and solid colors. The image enjoys a good, steady crispness and definition throughout. Facial textures are nicely stable, and background objects retain a good, natural sharpness. Colors range from brilliant to deliberately dull and tired. Splashes of bolder colors in the way of bright lights, green grasses, and red gas cans show the transfer's prowess, while the more toned down parts of the film show its ability to remain true to the artistic vision. There's no major bouts of noise or unwanted artifacts. The picture does shift into a wider aspect ratio on a few different occasions to accentuate a scene or create a more flavorful cinematic feel.
Pawn Shop Chronicles Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Pawn Shop Chronicles features a well balanced and largely faultless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack. From the first notes forward, it's clear the track enjoys a wide, even stage and strong clarity. Every element plays within its place and with stage commanding presence and satisfying authenticity. The track provides some excellent outdoor atmospherics that enter the stage with a natural, even posture, never overwhelming and certainly not playing too unevenly or shallowly. Heavier effects are also nicely presented, whether gunfire or the rumble of a beater pickup truck engine. Bass rises in prominence at one point midway through the film with a balance and power that never wears out its welcome. The film builds to an explosion of powerful energy and immersion at the end. Dialogue is consistently clear and even throughout. This is a top-flight soundtrack from Anchor Bay.
Pawn Shop Chronicles Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Pawn Shop Chronicles contains only an audio commentary track with Executive Producer/Director Wayne Kramer and Writer/Actor Adam Minarovich.
Pawn Shop Chronicles Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Pawn Shop Chronicles doesn't really gel the way Pulp Fiction does. Nevertheless, it tells three rather interesting tales that range from the repulsive and repugnant to the truly bizarre. It's best enjoyed as a trio of short films rather than a single entity that ties back together over itself. The cast is fantastic and features a wide range of recognizable faces. Anchor Bay's Blu-ray release of Pawn Shop Chronicles features high quality video and audio. Supplements are limited to a commentary. Definitely worth a rental and probably a purchase at a heavily discounted price.
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